What happens to Canes now after another loss to FSU?

It was right there for Miami — a shot at a glorious victory as an underdog on the road, and a chance to vindicate a man, a program, and a coaching regime all in the same night.

Miami had the lead in the fourth quarter of its Sunshine State rivalry showdown Saturday night at Tallahassee, as Brad Kaaya threw his third touchdown pass of the evening on a brilliant diving catch by Stacy Coley with just over ten minutes left to give the Hurricanes a one-point advantage, 24-23.

At stake for the Canes was not only snapping its five-game losing streak to the hated Seminoles, but also a tremendous boost in momentum heading into Coastal Division play with an Oct. 17 home game with Virginia Tech, and then games with Clemson and Duke in late October that could very well determine Miami’s chances of reaching the ACC Championship Game.

But Miami’s defense simply couldn’t shut down Florida State rushing phenom Dalvin Cook, who sliced his way through the Canes to the tune of 222 yards on 22 carries and a pair of touchdowns on the night. Cook’s 72-yard score early in the game got the Seminoles going, and his 23-yard score midway through the fourth quarter, a few minutes after Coley’s touchdown grab, gave FSU its 29-24 winning margin.

“He’s a great back,” said Hurricanes head coach Al Golden of Cook. “We just missed too many tackles on him, and obviously he got free, into the open field. He’s a very talented player.”

“Just really disappointed for our guys. I thought they were resilient. I thought they believed. Despite going down early, they stayed together. And we had opportunities to win,” Golden continued. “I love this group. I love the way they compete. I love how resilient they are, and how they just stayed together. I wanted it so badly for them to win this game. I really did. They worked really hard. We had opportunities, but we didn’t do it.”

“We just needed one more play. We just needed a takeaway. Again, give (FSU) credit. They did not give us a short field, ever. Their kicking game is excellent. They protected the football. It’s just disappointing, because we did a lot of things right.”

The Canes, sitting at 3-2 and 0-1 in league play after its sixth straight setback to the Seminoles, now have to prepare for a series of six games against Coastal Division opponents, as well as a home matchup with the ACC’s best team in Clemson. Certainly this year’s schedule did the Canes no favors, but that can’t be an excuse as the program looks to right itself and make a potential run at the Coastal crown. That may be the singular thing that could save Golden at this point.

“We’ve played one ACC game. And that’s what I said to them (after the game),” Golden said. “We haven’t played a Coastal game yet, and we’ve played one ACC game. So we’ve just got to keep tight, grow from this, fix the things we have to fix. They’re disappointed, but they’ll come back.”

With the hot seat sizzling in Coral Gables, the question becomes this — what will it take at this stage of the season for Golden to keep his head coaching position with the Canes?

In so many ways, it depends on how Golden, his assistants, and the Hurricane players overcome the loss to Florida State. With the annual battle with the Seminoles once again lost, one of the single-biggest concerns for the Miami staff at this stage is holding everyone together.

Last year’s team fizzled out after nearly pulling off the upset over James Winston and the Seminoles on their home field, and a significant concern at this juncture is whether or not the same thing could happen again.

If the Canes falter down the stretch and fail to win the Coastal Division, it would seem likely that Golden won’t be returning in 2016. That also goes for perhaps a significant chunk of the current roster if and when a new coach comes in and begins to start cleaning house in the spring and pre-training camp months. Also at stake is Miami’s impressive 2016 recruiting class, which could unravel in a flash if Golden and his assistants drift away to other schools.

With so much pressure for everyone involved, its pretty easy to envision a scenario where the whole thing unravels rapidly if the team loses a few more games, and fails to capitalize on its opportunities to beat teams they feel that they should realistically beat down the stretch.

So much at stake, yet so simple a solution for Golden and his team. Find a way to win in late October and November, claim the Coastal Division crown, and take another crack at either FSU or Clemson in December in Charlotte.

With little doubt, the Canes have given up their breathing room. Assuming they don’t pull off the upset and beat top 10 Clemson Oct. 24, they would essentially have to run the table in the Coastal Division, and hope one of the other teams loses another league game so they can claim a tiebreaker. If the Hurricanes upset the Tigers, they might have the wiggle room to lose one Coastal game, but that’s assuming a team within the division doesn’t run the table themselves.

For Golden, the heat really couldn’t get much hotter. 3-2 simply isn’t good enough at Miami, especially when the Canes have lost six straight to Florida State — a rivalry that has, in many ways, grown cobwebs over the last decade-plus.

In a profession where winning trumps all else, and at a place where losing hasn’t been tolerated for the last three decades, Golden has little choice if he wants to keep his job than rally his squad together and prove in the coming weeks that they’re the best team in the Coastal Division.

Aside of that, it would seem almost probable at this point that a new man will be in charge of the Hurricanes following Miami’s latest near-miss against their most bitter enemies on the gridiron.